Wizards, Cassell revisit beginnings in Baltimore

Wizards, Cassell revisit beginnings in Baltimore
September 19, 2013, 5:00 pm
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BALTIMORE -- It has been a while since Wizards assistant coach Sam Cassell has been back on the basketball court of his alma mater. And it's been quite a while since the team has been in this city, too. 

Led by Cassell, who played at Dunbar Senior High School in the late '80s, the Wizards held a basketball clinic for students Thursday. Bradley Beal, Garrett Temple and Bullets alumni Mike Riordan and Larry Stewart were among others in attendance.

The Wizards begin training camp Sept. 28. They will play a preseason game Oct. 17 vs. the New York Nicks at Baltimore Arena.

"I haven't been here in a long time. We used to call this place the Eastside Garden. It's changed. The banners are still the same," said Cassell, who graduated from Dunbar in 1988 before going on to a 15-year career as an NBA player. "This opportunity came up to me about coming back to my alma mater, why not?

"This is where my groundwork, my roots started right here at Dunbar under coach Bob Wade. This was our sanctuary. … This court was clear at all times. You didn't see too many people walking through the court. If were weren't practicing this court was clear. You had to walk around the court. It's different seeing the kids playing on the court right now. Bob Wade used to always say, 'Only real basketball players are allowed on this court, unless you had gym class.'"

Riordan spent six season with the Bullets, including the last two in the franchise's original home of Baltimore (1971-73). 

"It was always a good basketball town. Got a lot of memories," said Riordan, who averaged 18.1 points in the final Baltimore season. "It had a small-town feel to it but a big-time basketball feel to it. The exhibition that's being played back here next month is something I'm looking forward to."

Riordan, a New York native, was drafted by the Knicks and then traded to the Bullets.  

"The favorite memories of Baltimore were the real big playoff matches against the Knicks. Back in the late '60s, early '70s they were classic matchups with Gus Johnson and Earl Monroe," he said. "I was just getting  in the league at the time. It was my baptism into basketball. I just had a real good experience here in Baltimore and I've never forgotten it. I still enjoy this town more than I do D.C."